Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo :: Hillcrest Foundation Nature Exchange

Hillcrest Foundation Nature Exchange


It’s not a gift shop, it’s a swap shop!

The Hillcrest Foundation Nature Exchange is a unique trading post for nature items. Since it opened in 2000, the Nature Exchange has inspired over 25,000 Dallas Zoo guests and their families to go out and explore nature.



1. BRING your nature items to the Nature Exchange. We accept up to five items per trader, per day including rocks, shells, fossils, and much, much more!


3. EARN Nature Exchange “points” for your items, for teaching us what you know about your items, and for sitting down to learn with the Nature Exchange staff.

2. TELL us about your items, and LEARN more with the Nature Exchange staff.


4. SHOP in the Nature Exchange with your points. (We don’t accept money.) You can also save points in your account. They never expire.



Three questions often heard in the Nature Exchange:


The answer:  The points aren’t the point.

microscope3 csOur focus is on the exchange, the interaction between traders and Nature Exchange staff, and the swapping of knowledge, ideas, and information. We strive to make learning fun for all ages. The Nature Exchange program is about getting traders fired up about science, the natural world, and discovery with family and friends.

That said, Nature Exchange points are awarded on the basis of

  • How unique an item is
  • What condition it’s in
  • What you know about it

If you’re really eager to start building up points in your account, think “tradeability.” When considering what items to bring, ask yourself, “If I saw this on the shelf, would I spend my points on it?”

Unfortunately, we can’t estimate the point value of an item until you bring it in to the Nature Exchange.




The Dallas Zoo is committed to responsible stewardship of the environment. We ask our traders to leave as little trace as possible when collecting.  Leave more than you take – a great collection is based on variety, not volume. And in the Nature Exchange, one acorn will earn you the same number of points as a sackful.



The Nature Exchange accepts a very wide variety of nature items, including rocks and minerals, sand samples, sea shells, sea stars, fossils, clean bones (except for birds), dead insects, nuts and seeds, leaves, pine cones, and pressed flowers.

Still, there are a few rules we have to follow.

• NO ITEMS FROM THE ZOO. We can’t take anything found on zoo grounds. Don’t despair! Even first-time visitors can take advantage of the “Free Bin,” so nobody goes home empty-handed.  Also, we sometimes offer special activities that award “participation” points. Don’t hesitate to ask at the front desk!

• NO CORAL. Earth’s coral reefs are highly endangered.

• NO BIRD-RELATED ITEMS. Most bird species are federally protected, so we can’t take nests, feathers, eggs, or bird bones.

• NO DEAD ANIMALS. No skins, pelts, or taxidermied animals. Absolutely no roadkill, please! Let the vultures and beetles take care of dead smelly things. Clean bones (except for bird bones), snake sheds and spider sheds that you find in the wild are okay. Keep your pet’s sheds to amaze and impress your friends.

• NO LIVING ANIMALS. If it’s alive, please let it be. Take a picture instead. Better yet, draw what you see and earn nature journal points for sharing your observations with us.

• NO LIVING PLANTS. Leave living leaves and flowers for everyone to enjoy!

• NO ITEMS FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES OR PROTECTED AREAS. This includes any animal-related stuff that you might have found while you’re on zoo grounds. We can’t trade them, and you risk prosecution. Note that arrowheads and other artifacts are protected. Leave them where you found them, for all generations to enjoy.

Educator Information: Interested in incorporating the Nature Exchange into your curriculum or field trips? Email to learn more about the Nature Exchange for educators and schedule a trading experience for your classroom.



THANK YOU!  Okay, that was two words, but a mere “thanks” just isn’t enough. Thank you for making the Dallas Zoo’s Nature Exchange a huge success. We love our traders!